Anyone who knows me knows I love a good house party. Anyone who knows me also knows that if they invite me over for any reason at all I’ll do everything in my power to be there. My love of house parties stems from my childhood. I lived for the sleepovers and birthdays at friend’s houses. I loved seeing how other people lived, watching their mother’s arrange food and set up games.
In high school my best friend and I prided ourselves on the parties we threw whenever he dad was out of town. I remember all the effort it took to calculate how much meat we needed for the grill, how many limes for chasers, and the time we put into creating and printing flyers – which I regret is something teenagers today will sadly never have the chance to perfect.
When college rolled around I looked forward to weekends that revolved around more spontaneous gatherings. To help shed the stress of a school work week and unwind with heated political / sociological debates while splayed out on bean bags in bad lit (usually badly carpeted) apartments eating low quality cheese dips with cheap beer. There was no pressure back then. No pomp, no planning, no Pintrest. Nobody was trying to impress anybody else with their craft beer or exotic foods. We were just a bunch of young, broke, happy to hang college kids looking for any excuse to infiltrate a friend’s house and hopefully pass out without a hangover on their pull-out Ikea Sofa bed afterwards.
As far as party expectations go not much has changed in my regard. I’m still easily entertained and still prefer the humble intimacy of a house party over any other type of event. In spite of all the fancy dinners, brunches, exhibits and pop ups I am regularly invited to (and sometimes attend) none of it compares to being invited into someone’s house. Because nothing makes me happier than an evening spent in a warm living room crammed full of half drunk people I really enjoy.
This has always been the case. Mike and I use to host parties regularly back at our first house when were one of the first to own a home in our circle of friends. Our tiny Spanish bungalow became the center hub for weekend entertainment. Complete with a red kitchen, framed black and white photos of old blue’s men on the walls, a handmade adobe fireplace outback and outdoor bar equipped with a working kegerator always in need of refilling. I can recall many late night dance parties, and local bands set up there in the backyard. Graduation, birthday, Christmas parties. And a few notable fist fights and breakups too. It was our 20s. Life was full of it all.
Even after kids though when everyone was doing their best to construct some kind of streamlined adult version of themselves our second home was alive with late nights and regular celebration. We remained a steady host to weekend BBQs, potlucks, cocktail parties. Where kids were always welcome. Where everyone was always welcome. The “more the merrier” mantra is one the Kraus houses should probably have emblazoned on their door frames. In the kind of mindset that was later applauded as the ‘laid back European approach’ after that french parenting book came out and told people it was ok to let their kids stay up past bed times sometimes, or be pushed out of late night living rooms to more or less allow adults to have fun and not worry their children might be permanently scared by an occasionally busted bedtime routine.
Apparently the french tend to adjust their children to their lifestyle and not vice versa. Which seems to be groundbreaking insight for Americans and the reason my friend called one evening to proudly inform me “You were a french woman all along!” after reading the book and seeing basically the core of my parenting style cutely secured in a best selling book.
The slow decline of house parties is something I noticed a few years ago that was later validated when I came across the The New York Times article called The Death of the Party. It looked into the reasons behind the decline. Some of which were obvious. As David Foster Wallace grimly predicted in 1997 “It’s gonna get easier and easier, and more and more convenient, and more and more pleasurable, to be alone with images on a screen.” And boy was he right. The main detraction being the ease and comfort of the iphone / netflix era lure. Who really wants to peel themselves off their sofa after a long day to get dressed, put on makeup, throw together a side dish and possibly face traffic on a Saturday night when you can just relax in the quiet comfort of your own home under the blue glow of your TV or smartphone when you can watch other people all over the world on a tiny screen having a good time and not have to move a muscle of your own attempting to do the same?
What a sad shame it is, right? That we have to sack our desire for entertaining for something so trite. For fear of being judged by the foods we serve, or the house we keep. Makes me wonder what Wallace would say about the extent to which people actually prefer phone connection to human connection in 2019. What he might say about the lazy luxuries of ordering food right to our doorstep, choosing a movie or texting conveniences making it so easy to cancel on each other on a whim, all from the one device that works with equal effect at connecting AND dividing us.
What would David Foster Wallace think about the sad slow decline of the house party?
Another talking point in the article is one I’ve struggled with myself. The pressures built by social media. To make a party spectacular. Thanks to IG and Pintrest, party expectations are exceptionally high these days. I see kid parties set up solely for the purpose of IG clicks, which appear to have almost nothing to do with the interests of the 5 year olds actually attending them. I see weeks and weeks worth of preparation behind what might be simple events just to ensure they offer guests (friends) quality content. I can’t help but regret the fact that entertaining is such a far cry from what our moms did in the 90s – which was often as simple as filling bowls full of potato chips alongside sliced up veggies and a small array of basic finger foods atop whatever table cloths she had on hand. There were simple games and minimal decor. And, we, were, delighted by it.
Now the centerpieces and cheese platters we’ve grown accustomed to are nothing short of magazine worthy. It’s all about having the right linens and hippest dish ware. Regular folks are hosting editorial looking back yard dinners, under candlelight with ornate flower arrangements and recipes boasting brag worthy ingredients. What are we here for if not “Locally sourced” dishes and cocktails as pretty as they are complicated to the point you almost feel guilty drinking them? I’m not saying I’m against a fancy party, I for one love a festive approach to anything in life but if this is what is keeping people from entertaining, I’ll take a baguette, a beer and a store bought fruit platter on a plastic tray any day. Because what’s actually happening is people are forgetting the whole point of a house party. The role it plays in rooting a community together to celebrate high points in each other’s lives. Be it a baby’s birthday, an engagement, a house warming, bbq, whatever. When someone is opening their home to entertain kin in honor of a sweet fleeting period in life, shouldn’t it come without judgement or expectations or picture perfect appeal?
I work in social media, my job is to make mundane things look inspiring and I still resent the idea that I need to stress about what I put my food in or how it looks on square screens most of the time. So I stopped. Last year for example, in the middle of our worst state of renovation, I decided to host a birthday party for one kid and an art show for another where I had to shed any pressures to get it “perfect” because it was literally not an option. And you know what? It ended up being one of our best yet. Plus a huge relief on my end. Everyone had a fabulous time eating pizza amidst crumbling walls and wrecked ceilings with dollar store banners, home made decorations and a few balloons thrown together the morning of.
The way I see it is life is short. And celebrations always worth the drive. Reading the New York Times article again makes me want to scream at people to turn off their TVs, and just throw more parties. Fluff the pillows, put on a dress, throw all your shit in the closet, cut up some sandwiches and invite your people over without fretting decor and details. It might not be something strangers on that little screen envy or repin. But it’s usually a damn good time. And we could all use a little more of that in real life. Whatever you do don’t let Pintrest ruin your want to party.
Also Consider :